Sitting in mission prep, our teacher asked us to role play. He said “Choose any gospel topic and discuss it.” The “investigator” turned to me and said “We’ve talked about agency, but I’ve never understood how can God know what we are going to be choosing without forcing us to choose it?” I’d asked myself this question for years, having never felt like I’d received an answer. Because of this, I’d put the question on the back burner, focusing on the gospel truths that were easier to understand and building my testimony. (Side note: Sometimes I find this to be the best course of action, because I’m not ready to understand or because I want to not let the question shake my faith.)
I started into an explanation. “Imagine that you are the mother of a five year old boy named Johnny. You’ve spent all day preparing for dinner – family is coming over and you want everything to be perfect. You’ve put out all types of food, ranging from Johnny’s favorites to least favorites. On one side of the table there is turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, gravy, salad, corn, and beans. On the other side, you’ve put out lots of cookies, a few types of drinks, some hard candies and Johnny’s favorite delicious, chocolate cake.”
Intriguingly, she looked at me.
I continued “Basically, you have a smörgåsbord of options. Johnny comes up to you and asks ‘Mom, what can I eat?’ Lovingly you say, ‘Whatever you want honey! Turkey or beans or chocolate cake. You can choose!’ His eyes get really big and the lingers for a moment to make sure he heard you correctly. ‘Go ahead, and choose something.'”
Turning to my “investigator” I ask ‘Do you know what Johnny is going to take?’ ‘Yes, he is going to go for the chocolate cake.’ ‘How do you know?’ ‘Because I know him – he is my son.’ ‘Did you force him to pick that?’ ‘Absolutely not, he got to choose.'”
Similarly, God has given us a life that is a smörgåsbord of choices. Because he knows us so well as His children, He knows what we will choose – just like the mom knows what Johnny will choose. This doesn’t mean that we are forced into our choice or that he has used some mind game to get us to choose option X. It means that we are the choosers, and that He knows us.
I sat there and looked at my investigator. What had I just said? Is that how it works? Did I know the answer to a question that I’d had for years? Or was that the Holy Ghost working through me?
Yes – to all of those. Agency is something that seems paradoxical, but it really isn’t. We fought for this ability to choose in the beginning – in the big war. We wanted to be able to choose the cake or the beans. We wanted to be able to make decisions based upon our emotions or logic or somewhere in between. The ability to choose is something we fought for and still fight for.
But sometimes… Sometimes, I wish that I was just told what to do. It isn’t that I don’t like agency; rather it is because I don’t know what to do, or I don’t have confidence in my choice or ability to choose the right or best path. God, however, trusts me, and you, to make decisions. He trusts us to try to choose wisely. In doing so, we have the option to seek revelation which can help guide us along the path back to Him. He isn’t going to force us down one path or the other – He’ll just encourage us to be good and choose good, all while nudging us if we have made a wrong step. This is His promise to us.
Our path to Heaven wasn’t defined before we came to earth and it still isn’t defined today. It is shaped every day by our decisions. There are certain things that we need to do, known as ordinances, that will qualify us for eternal blessings. We have the privilege to choose to receive those ordinances and then also receive the blessings associated with them. These are the only “required” choices we have to make – even these, however, aren’t actually required. Like so many other choices, they will bring us blessings that we have all dreamed of.
The best part about agency is that when we make a mistake, we have the ability to change. To repent. Which enables us continue to progress! It boils down to the fact that our decisions determine our destiny. Not some man in the sky who knows the future. You determine your destiny. And I determine mine.
This is the plan. The remarkable plan of happiness, agency, love, and good that God came up with. The one we sustained in the beginning and it is the one that we can choose to enjoy everyday.
What questions have you been asking recently?
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